Monday, September 20, 2010

Beautiful (Part 2)

Knowing that sometimes it is comforting to hear that you are not alone in how you feel, I asked some of the women in my life a few questions about beauty. I thought that if I was able to gather some thoughts from various women in all walks of life, it could serve as a bit of encouragement to each other. Below is a summary of the answers I received from friends and family; hopefully they will serve to help you feel that you're not alone in your beauty struggles and offer you some new inspiration to realize in your heart that you are indeed gorgeous.

Question One: What areas do you struggle with your beauty?

I got a few mixed answers on this one, but the most common response seemed to be a struggle with weight. It's amazing how big of a role our weight plays in how we feel about ourselves and a large part of that can be attributed to how weight management and what weights are "pretty" are portrayed in our culture. Images of what is or is not acceptable - no matter how healthy or unhealthy - are emblazoned in our psyche. This ends up tying in to another common theme which was that we compare ourselves to others and don't feel like we measure up. We don't feel as pretty as the person in the next cubicle or as smart as the talking heads on TV or as funny as the person telling jokes at the table at dinner. We compare ourselves to famous people and our neighbors and our friends and our other family members. There were a few statements people shared with me that encompassed this feeling of comparison:

""I'm having a tough time dealing with having a 'mom's' body. Especially when your own mother is tinier than you are."

"I usually struggle in seeing those around me, and coveting their own beauty."

"There are days when I feel like I look good until I get to the office and someone smaller, prettier, smarter comes along.  Then I end up feeling frumpy and old."

Beyond the bigger answers are the little things that we notice about ourselves. Our nails are worn down from the jobs we perform. Our skin shows signs of aging. Our arms look terrible in dresses. Our skin is too pale. Our faces break out. When we're down, these small things can often become amplified and make us feel even worse about ourselves. We put ourselves under a magnifying glass and become our own worst critics, pointing out every way possible we could improve.

The saddest answer I got on this survey was this: "The answer to that, is simply that I struggle... I've never really felt beautiful, never really had it in me to believe other people if they tell me that." There are a few reasons I almost cried with this particular answer, but when it comes down to it - this answer is the most raw, all-encompassing response I received. I can't tell you how many days I've had where it hasn't matter who told me I was gorgeous; I could not bring myself to believe them. If we're honest with ourselves, this is probably a more common problem than we realize.

Ladies, I don't know why we all struggle with our beauty the way we do. I will say this: every woman who responded to this is incredibly beautiful and it saddens me that there are times we don't see this about ourselves. 

Question Two: What are some things you do for yourself to help you to feel more beautiful?

Man, do we all do some different things to help ourselves feel beautiful. I LOVE that we all know exactly what helps us to feel good about ourselves; if nothing else, it's an encouragement that we know somewhere in our souls that we are beautiful. Here is a list of the different things I heard that we do to make ourselves feel "purty":
  • Sit in the sun
  • Do our hair or go out and get it done for us. 
  • Manicures/pedicures
  • Exercise 
  • Put on make-up
  • Get dressed in clothes that boost our confidence
  • Remind ourselves of our inner beauty
The most beautiful answer I received, however, is too good to not share with you. Please read this in its entirety; I hope that you are as inspired as I was when I read it the first time:

"If the first part of searching for beauty (both within and without) involves remembering that beauty is more than what sight has to offer, the second part involves using the sight of someone else.

My goddaughter is an amazing creature. Since the day she was born she's been filling me up with the best gifts life can offer, teaching me lessons that I've been unable to learn on my own. When she was born, I was underweight - and when I would hold her - I would have to put a pillow on my arm or she would cry, my bony arms much too uncomfortable for her. Instead of the context for my body being - "beauty is thin," it became "beauty is being able to hold this precious child."

My weight has gone all over the place in the five years she's been on this earth. Y'know what hasn't changed? The way this child looks at me - the way she lights up and wants to play. In her eyes, I am this amazing person - and that has so precious little to do with external beauty it is astounding. In her eyes, I am beautiful, because she sees through the eyes of Love. 

Having a bad day - feeling ugly and unsuccessful? Look at yourself through the eyes of a child who loves you. They should bottle it; it is that powerful."

Question 3: What quote/song lyric/Bible verse (etc.) do you feel you most relate to and fall back on in your life in regards to beauty? (If none, that's OK too.)
No answer repeated itself with this question, which was kind of fun because I was able to get a big variety of answers. Here are the answers I received to this question:
  • The Serenity Prayer (God, please grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.)
  • Christina Aguilera: "Beautiful"
  • Jon McLaughlin: "Beautiful Disaster"
  • Eric Hutchinson: "You Don't Have to Believe Me"
  • Alanis Morrisette: "That I Would Be Good" 
  • "Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. The king is enthralled with your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." (Psalm 45:10-11, NIV)
  • "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul know it very well." (Psalm 139: 13-14, NASB)
  • One I just remembered today - "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"" (Romans 9:20, NIV)
  • Simply Red: "You're Beautiful"
  • Mason Williams: "Classical Gas"
  • Journey: "Girl can't help it"
  • "I like myself more now than I ever did. I don't know why some things have happened to me, but somehow it has all worked out for the best. They all helped me in my search to become whole."  Anonymous 
  • "Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye" 
And thus concludes this very long post about where we stand with our own beauty. I hope that you found it helpful; I know that reading the answers as I got them in certainly was an encouragement to me, and I've been excited to share these responses with you.

So now... what about you? Where do you struggle? What do you do to help yourself out of it? Any inspiration to share with us? 

**Note: I've decided this will be a four-part series. Parts 3 and 4 will be coming soon!

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